Top Alabama Election Official Goes Off On ‘Lazy People’ And Voter Registration

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This post has been updated.

Alabama’s top election official opposes registering voters automatically when they turn 18 because, as he put it, allowing “lazy people” to register without any effort would “cheapen” the work civil rights leaders put in fighting for everyone’s right to vote in the United States.

“I don’t think that just because your birthday comes around, that you ought to be registered to vote,” Secretary of State John Merrill (R) said in an interview published online Wednesday for an upcoming documentary by Brian Jenkins “Answering the Call.”

Merrill then listed civil rights leaders like Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, arguing that their legacy would be diminished by automatic voter registration.

“These people fought—some of them were beaten, some of them were killed—because of their desire to ensure that everybody that wanted to had the right to register to vote and participate in the process. I’m not going to cheapen the work that they did. I’m not going to embarrass them by allowing somebody that’s too sorry to get up off of their rear end to go register to vote,” he said.

However, as Slate noted, Lewis has pushed legislation that would put in place automatic voter registration.

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), who was also listed by Merrill, called his comments “wrong” on Twitter and voiced her support for automatic voter registration.

While discussing his opposition to automatic voter registration Merrill expressed a lot of concern about “lazy people.”

“I’m not attracted to lazy people or sorry people or people that don’t want to get involved,” he said in the interview. “I’m sure there’s probably some good people that are sorry and lazy, that don’t want to do anything, but those people and I would have a difficult time working together.”

“And those people are not the people who we need leading this country, and they’re not the people who will be trying to find a way to change the future of our country to ensure that all of our citizens are treated fairly and equally and have an opportunity to achieve at the level that they desire,” he continued. “And so if you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and to go register to vote, or to register electronically, and then to go vote, then you don’t deserve that privilege.”

He said that while he is in office as Alabama’s secretary of state, residents will “have to show some initiative to become a registered voter in this state.”

“There will be no impediment to participating, but if you want to participate in this process, you’re going to have to participate,” he said.

Merrill and the state of Alabama were criticized last year after the state closed several driver’s license offices, many of which were located in majority black counties. He insisted that the DMV closures would not prevent people form obtaining the photo identification now needed to vote in the state.

Watch the interview:

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